Public relations specialists work with many kinds of clients, in a wide variety of fields, and to be able to serve each client well they must be adaptable and often act as a jack of all trades. However, there are some foundational skills that lend themselves to being able to handle the fast pace and constant maneuvering this industry demands. The role of a public relations specialist within an organization is essentially to bridge the gap between the corporation and the public regarding image and perception. Same can be said for specialists that work with individuals as opposed to large businesses. To be able to manage these images in a positive light as well as help to shape public opinion away from bad publicity in critical situations requires a specific skill set to be successful.
One major facet of the public relations industry is its fast pace. Once information has leaked and the public is involved, PR specialists have a small window of time for which to react, recover, and reshape the situation. Advanced time management skills paired with rock solid instincts are what sets the pros apart from the beginners amidst a crisis. You must be able to be prepared for the unexpected while also juggling multiple clients and projects.
Earning your degree or specific certifications in this industry will provide you with a period to master deadlines, practice crisis management, and create an organizational rhythm for yourself that can be applied to your career and clients after graduation. Project management certifications are a good way to beef up your professional resume and show proof that your time management skills are noteworthy. Taking out student loans from a private lender to pay for college and earn a full degree also gives you a chance to seek out internships within the industry to make connections and better define your specialties.
Incorporating social media into a business plan has quickly moved past a suggestion to a requirement. With these platforms replacing traditional websites in some scenarios, proficiency in this area is essential for successful branding. As a PR specialist, it is a major part of your job to not only be aware of each of these platforms, but also understand how to use them, troubleshoot their issues, and partner with them for the promotional needs of your clients.
Social media is the fastest way to reach a large population of people and PR specialists know this all too well when their clients are faced with a crisis. It only takes one person to tag or @ your client in an unfavorable way to make that first domino fall. As a professional you should know the best practices to consider during times of crisis in advance of having to use them so when the time comes your strategy is already developed and understood between you and your client.
PR specialists know that within their industry communication expands far beyond the spoken word, or even the written content distributed by the client. As blogs, podcasts, and social media groups emerge as top forces driving consumerism and public opinion, professionals need to have strong communication skills on both the offensive and defensive side. Technical writing skills are an essential partner to communication. Being able to clearly define your client’s message and goal, while simultaneously engaging the public and providing relevant content is a non-negotiable aspect of the industry.
To be an expert in this industry you need to realize that you will constantly need to be the driving force behind things, industries, or individuals that you know nothing about. Having highly developed research skills to be able to quickly become knowledgeable about that in which you have no experience is necessary for survival. These skills will also help you learn to prioritize tasks and determine how much attention to dedicate to each component of the overall relationship building process.
Being able to efficiently conduct research is also crucial when problem solving, a common task within the PR industry. Gathering information quickly and then being able to analyze it for credibility before putting together your client’s problem-solving strategy is not something that you can wing at the last second. Creating a process for collecting data that has as low of a margin for error as possible is necessary for ensuring that small problems do not grow because of your carelessness.
In this industry, your reputation is everything. It is up to you to create and maintain your reputation in a way that leaves no room for doubt regarding not only your professional capabilities but your core human values as well. PR specialists deal with sensitive and confidential information daily and often this content can be controversial in nature. Present and future clients need to be able to trust you before they know you and the only way to create that blind trust is by having a background of interactions that support it.
There are so many niches within the PR industry, but these five skills are examples of skills that are transferrable across these categories. Considering the pace, and constant evolution that PR specialists must deal with, having core tools within your toolbox is the only way to remain relevant as a professional and be able to adapt as you clients, and their needs and demands rotate. One of the biggest challenges you will face as a PR professional is unpredictability within the industry. So much that you must handle is hinged on elements outside your control that you must create a flawless element regarding that which you can control to be successful.